Friday, March 20, 2009

Israel's dirty secrets in Gaza.

Israel's most recent assault on Gaza has done more damage to her reputation than many of us thought possible, but things are starting to get a whole lot worse with some of her own soldiers giving testimonies stating that they were ordered to shoot unarmed Palestinian civilians.

The testimonies – the first of their kind to emerge from inside the military – are at marked variance with official claims that the military made strenuous efforts to avoid civilian casualties and tend to corroborate Palestinian accusations that troops used indiscriminate and disproportionate firepower in civilian areas during the operation. In one of the testimonies shedding harsh new light on what the soldiers say were the permissive rules of engagement for Operation Cast Lead, one soldier describes how an officer ordered the shooting of an elderly woman 100 metres from a house commandeered by troops.

Another soldier, describing how a mother and her children were shot dead by a sniper after they turned the wrong way out of a house, says the "atmosphere" among troops was that the lives of Palestinians were "very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers".

A squad leader said: "At the beginning the directive was to enter a house with an armoured vehicle, to break the door down, to start shooting inside and – I call it murder – to shoot at everyone we identify. In the beginning I asked myself how could this make sense? Higher-ups said it is permissible because everyone left in the city [Gaza City] is culpable because they didn't run away."
The Israelis put a lot of spin on this during the campaign, claiming that they were going to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties, which was hard to believe based simply on the astonishing number of civilians who were being killed.

The testimonies of these soldiers now suggests that the exact opposite was taking place and that Palestinians were considered, "culpable because they didn't run away."

But run away to where? Gaza is the world's largest open air prison with Israelis and Egyptians guarding the gates. The truth is that one of the worst things about Israel's assault on Gaza was that the civilian population didn't even have the choice to become refugees. They were literally fish in a barrel.

The testimonies also speak of Israel's indiscriminate destruction of Palestinian property, something which was apparent from Channel 4 reports at the time.

Ha'aretz newspaper state that 'the airing of the "dirty secrets" would make it more difficult for Israelis to dismiss the claims as Palestinian propaganda.'

But Ehud Barak, Israel's Defence Minister, seems to think that it's business as usual:
"I say to you that from the chief of staff down to the last soldier, the most moral army in the world stands ready to take orders from the government of Israel. I have no doubt that every incident will be individually examined."
The "most moral army in the world" doesn't behave in the way which these Israeli soldiers are saying that they were ordered to behave. That's simply a fact.
“According to the code, a soldier has to do his utmost to avoid civilian casualties and that involves taking some risk,” said Moshe Halbertal, a Jewish philosophy professor at Hebrew University who, along with three others, rewrote the military ethics code eight years ago. “That is the question we have to struggle with. From the testimonies of these soldiers, it sounds like they didn’t practice this norm.”
I have never bought into the myth of Israel's "purity of arms" and, reading the testimonies of these soldiers, it's hard to work out why anyone would.

This is not an example of a "purity of arms", rather this is the total absence of it.

Click title for full article.

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